Matt met the morning with a purpose. He wasted no time in showering, dressing
and making the sofa. He moved quietly and quickly about his apartment. He paused
a few times to glance at his closed bedroom door. When he was certain that Ellen
hadn't stirred, he went back to his tasks. Soon, his chores were completed and he
could focus on the call he had to make.
In one hand, he held a mug of steaming hot coffee and in the other, he held his cordless phone. He punched in the seven digits he had recently come to memorize and waited a little impatiently for the phone to be answered. He knew that his call was an early one, but he had a strong suspicion that he wasn't too early for the man on the other end. He wasn't disappointed. On the third ring, the phone was answered.
"Kevin here," came the voice on the other end.
"G'morning, Kevin," Matt said. "It's me, Matt."
"Is something wrong?" Kevin asked. "We just spoke to Carrie's nurse. She said that there had been no change. Did she wake up?"
"No, Kevin," Matt said with compassion. "I'm not at the hospital. This doesn't have anything to do with Carrie, I'm afraid. This is personal."
"Okay," the other man responded slowly. "How may I help you?"
"Actually, you wouldn't be helping just me. Ellen is also involved," Matt began.
"I'm not surprised," Kevin said, unable to hide the smile in his voice. "How do you need my help? I didn't see her yesterday, but I hear she's not the same as the woman we all remember. Does she need...counseling?"
"So, the rumor mill has begun to buzz?" Matt asked. The thought of Ellen's demeanor being fodder for gossip mongers angered Matt. He was scheduled to be at hospital in a couple of hours. He anticipated facing the chatterers with a few comments of his own.
"You know GH. Some were genuinely concerned about her and others just walked to talk. I would suggest that you take it all with a grain of salt, but I'm sure you will handle it in your own way."
"You know me well," Matt commented. "Um, Kevin, I trust that what we discuss will remain between us for the time being-"
"You should know that I wouldn't say a thing," Kevin said, clearly offended.
"I know," Matt said, "but some of this could be a little testy. You may want to contact the police and I'd prefer that you didn't."
"The police?" Kevin questioned. "You'd better tell me what's going on."
"Ellen didn't leave Port Charles on her own last year." Matt drew a harsh breath. His jaw grew tight with the injustice of everything she had told him and he found himself biting the words out. "Kevin, she was abducted and committed into a sanitarium."
"What?" Kevin exclaimed. "How? Who would do something like that to her and why?"
"That's what I'd like you to help me find out," Matt explained. "I wouldn't ask this of you, but I'm sure that you have connections in the psychiatric world. You could ask questions that I couldn't without raising too much suspicion. I would appreciate your help. Ellen would, too. ...but with everything happening, we would understand if you wouldn't be able to-"
"Matt, Ellen is one of my closest friends. There's no way I couldn't help you."
"What about Dara and the twins?" Matt asked, determined to present all the sides to Kevin so that they both could be sure. "Someone went to a lot of trouble to remove Ellen from her life and ours. Helping us could be dangerous."
"I know that I said I wouldn't say anything, but I'd have to tell Dara what's happening. I know that she'll understand. Are you on today? Maybe we could go over a few things after I drop Dara off. And, Ellen...I'd like to talk with her, too, as soon as possible."
"Yes, I can meet with you at the hospital. I think Ellen's planning to visit Carrie this morning. You can talk with her then."
"Sounds good to me," Kevin said. "I'll see you then. Don't worry too much, Matt. We'll get to the bottom of this. The people who hurt her won't go unpunished."
"I refuse to consider otherwise," Matt murmured almost to himself. Louder, he added, "Thanks, Kevin. I'll see you later."
Kevin said his good-bye and then Matt set the cordless down on the end table. Behind him, the door creaked open and Ellen asked, "Who were you talking to?"
"Good morning," Matt said, maneuvering his chair so that he could look at her. His breath caught at the sight of her. Her hair had been finger combed and sexily framed her heart-shaped face. Her dark brown eyes were shiny and bright as she stared back at him. Protectively, she wrapped her arms around herself and took tentative steps forward. She seemed unsure of herself, and he wasn't used to seeing her that way. He felt himself warming to her more and more. "Did you have a good night's sleep? Was the bed comfortable enough for you? There are a few lumps, but nothing too serious, right?"
He smiled at her and she returned it, visibly becoming more relaxed. She moved to the sofa and sat on the end closest to him. "It was the best sleep I've had in the longest time," she said. "Thank you for giving me your bed."
Matt shook his head. "No, Ellen. You don't have to thank me."
She shrugged, but her eyes told him that she would always be grateful. He felt a twinge of guilt at that. He pushed it away as best he could, becoming alert as she opened her mouth to speak.
"How was your sleep? The sofa doesn't look too comfortable. Maybe tonight we should switch," she suggested. "I didn't mention it last night, but I'd like to go with you to the hospital this morning. I told Dawn that I'd visit Mrs. Jensen, and I want to check on her, too."
"You don't trust my prognosis?" Matt asked, a teasing note in his voice.
"No!" Ellen said. "I just want to look in on her. I don't mean to step on your toes."
"Ellen, I was only teasing you," he said, placing his hands on hers. Her fingers shook with tiny tremors. He took her hands between his and rubbed them gently. "You're shaking. You don't have to be afraid with me. I may not look like it, but I can protect you. You don't have to fear them coming after you."
Her eyes lowered to their entwined hands. "I know that you can protect me. You have before. I trust you, but... Well, we don't even know who 'they' are. Right now, they may as well be invisible. It's impossible to not fear the unknown."
"I used to present this fearless persona," she continued as if he hadn't interrupted. "I wanted to appear invincible so that I couldn't be hurt again. I was an ice princess who couldn't be burned."
"I don't understand where you're going with this," Matt said. Her admission seemed painful. Since it hurt her, he wanted her to stop. She didn't owe him any explanation. Not anymore and certainly not after what she had been through. "Ellen, you don't have to-"
"Yes, I do," she said, cutting him off again. "Because of your persistence, I had to face my pain. With you, I learned how to let down my guard. When I did, I realized that everything I did was because of my fear. Loving you taught me not to be afraid anymore. Being taken from you brought it all back. I'm afraid, Matt. There's someone out there who doesn't like me very much and it scares the hell out of me. I've tried to be brave, but I know that I'm transparent. You can see right through me, can't you? You know how terrified I am, don't you?"
"Oh, Ellen," he said, disengaging one his hands so that he could cup her face. "I've always been able to see you. You can be afraid. You have every right to be. I think I have a small bit of information that should lessen that fear, though."
"What?" she asked, pressing her face against his warm palm. "Does this have something to do with your phone call?"
"Yes, you could definitely say that," he responded. "I spoke with Kevin this morning. He wants to help us. I asked him to talk it over with Dara, but he's sure that she'll be okay with it."
"Dara?" Ellen asked. "What does Dara have to do with Kevin? What about Eve?"
Matt smiled. He removed his hand from her face and covered her hand again. "A lot has happened in a year. Kevin and Eve broke up. She and Scott rediscovered each other-"
"What?" she asked, surprised. "Scott and Eve? What about Lucy?"
"Lucy moved away to take care of her Aunt. Scott and Eve got back together. And, Kevin asked Dara to the Nurses' Ball. Within weeks, they were married. They were the talk of Port Charles for quite a while," he said, finishing with a grin.
"I can imagine," Ellen said, smiling. "Are they happy?"
Matt's grin softened to a tender smile. "That's nice of you to ask. Yes, I'd say they are happy. They have newborn twins, Victor and Carlton. Everything was damn near perfect until Carrie went into a coma."
"That's something that doesn't make any sense," Ellen murmured with a frown.
Responding to the wheels he could see turning in her head, he said, "On that note, General Hospital, here we come. I'll make sure that her charts are at your full disposal and I'll see that you aren't disturbed."
"Ssh," he said, lightly placing a finger to her lips. "Not a word. Let's just hurry up and get ready. Besides, two heads are better than one. Carrie means a lot to a lot of people, myself included. I want her awake and soon. Together, I know that we can bring her back."
A sudden rush of tears glistened in her eyes. Huskily, she said, "Thank you, Matt. Your vote of confidence means everything."
He wiped away the tears that fell down her cheeks. This time, he simply said, "You're welcome."
"Thanks for coming this morning," Dawn spoke softly so as not to disturb her mother. She sat in a guest chair beside her mother's bed. Her hand covered her mother's and her eyes darted back and forth between the still woman and the vital man who hovered over both of them.
Lucky shrugged. "I thought I'd check up on you. Make sure that you're doing okay."
"I'm doing the best I can," she said, a small tremor in her voice. "I'm hanging in there. I've finally explained to Mama why I painted the bathroom black when i was seven. Too bad I didn't do it then."
"Hey," he said gently, "she hears you."
"I hope so," Dawn said. She took a deep breath and willed herself to think positive. She turned her attention to him and frowned. "Is it okay for you to be out like this in broad daylight? What about...well, everyone still thinks you're dead."
Lucky stared at her in stunned silence for a moment and then he burst out laughing. When his laughter subsided, he said, "Blunt is good and it suits you. Thanks for your concern, but I've decided to let whatever come what may. I'm here. The story will come out sooner or later. I'm willing to take my chances."'
Her frown deepened. "Are you sure?" Impulsively, she reached for his hand. "I feel weird about this. I came to you for your story, but I didn't want to intrude upon you. Well, not too much," she said, when he raised his eyebrow in a mocking gesture. "I wanted to write your story. I'm sure you don't believe me, but I wouldn't have done anything with it until you gave me the go ahead. I may not present myself the way I truly am. I am respectful of privacy. I would never have told anyone where you were."
"You don't have to worry about that now," he said, shrugging her words off. "I'm here and I'm not hiding any more. And, my story is yours if you want it."
"Exclusively?" she asked. Her hope for his affirmative response sparkled in her eyes.
He was powerless. "Exclusively," he said, nodding.
Dawn smiled back at him, knowing that no further words needed to be spoken on the matter at the time. Lucky felt the same. A companionable silence enveloped them and neither let go of the other's hand.